No longer safe
THERE used to be a time when news of terrorist attacks emanated only from distant cities—Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, Kabul and Lahore. Then, as the terrorists exported their twisted war on innocents to the West—Paris, Nice and Brussels—many Filipinos thought: “How horrible… but that will never happen here.”
Now it has.
On Friday night, a deadly explosion ripped through an open-air market in Davao City, killing at least 14 people and injuring 70 others on the day President Rodrigo Duterte visited his hometown.
Duterte, who inspected the scene, described the attack as “extraordinary times” for the Philippines.
“We’re trying to cope with a crisis now. There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extra-judicial killings and there seems to be an environment of lawless violence,” said Duterte.
The President declared “a state of lawlessness” that will allow him to authorize the military to assume some police powers to suppress lawless violence.
An Abu Sayyaf spokesman later claimed responsibility for the blast, confirming fears that the terrorist group would launch attacks on major urban centers to distract the government from its military offensive against it in Basilan and Sulu.
This, in fact, was the warning being aired days before the attack by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
“We have predicted this and warned our troops accordingly but the enemy is also adept at using the democratic space granted by our Constitution to move around freely and unimpeded to sow terror,” said Lorenzana.
Significantly, security forces in Davao had already been on high alert, not only because of the Abu Sayyaf warning, but because of the President’s presence over the weekend.
That the attack was pulled off anyway, with deadly effect, suggests that not enough has been done to safeguard the public against such attacks, and that the intelligence community needs to do more to close the security gap that the terrorists clearly used.
In the wake of Friday night’s blast, the Defense chief has appealed to the public “to remain calm but alert and vigilant” and to cooperate with security forces.
The President’s daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, ordered the night market to reopen Sunday, declaring that Davao would “not be terrorized by this heinous crime.”
These are actions we can rally behind, as they deny the terrorists the objective they wish to achieve, to cow the populace and to strike fear in our hearts.
Reopening the night market is a symbol of our refusal to give in to our fears, but that determination must be matched by a sober realization that we are no longer isolated from acts of terrorism. We are no longer safe.